Jeff Regan - The Prodigal Daughter
Publication date 1948-07-17
Topics Jeff Regan, Prodigal Daughter,The, Jack Webb, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Pearling Matter,The, Bob Bailey, ITOTR
Jeff Regan, Investigator - The Prodigal Daughter
July 17th, 1948
How do you prove that you're not you? It is easy to prove that you are something; much more difficult to prove that you're not. How do you prove that someone is who they say they are, when they're not, and how do you prove that a dead woman is who everyone says she was, when she can't speak for herself?
Confused? You won't be, after listening to The Prodigal Daughter.
This episode of Jeff Regan, although just the second in the series (the premiere seems lost to history), is a fine example of a show already hitting its stride; there is no sense of the writers, cast, or crew 'finding their way'. The multi-dimensional aspect of this series is already in place, in that every week Regan has to deal with not only the subject of his investigation, but also with his overbearing boss, Anthony J. Lyon. The character of Lyon's somewhat jaded receptionist, Melody, served to round out and define the Regan-Lyon subplots, although she seems to have played less of a part as the series progressed.
A lesser (or lower-budget) series might have done away with the Anthony Lyon character, or even this episode's Daniel Carter, the father who hires the detectives. Having Regan simply open the show with the narration "I was hired to find a girl; she'd been traced to New Orleans..." would have been easier on the budget, but the result would have had a very one-dimensional feel to it.
This method of story-telling, exploring characters' lives outside the confines of the central plot line, would serve Jack Webb well when he began his run as the star and producer of Dragnet, less than a year after this episode. Dragnet made use of many actors in small roles, and Sgt. Friday might interact with not only the bad guy of the week, but also on both a professional and a personal level with his partner, his superior officers, junior officers, victims and witnesses from every stratum of society, strangers looking for directions, and even his worried mother.
The story of The Prodigal Daughter is a very clever one, with plot twists that are at once believable and fresh, and a very inventive climax when the motives of the protagonists are revealed. The acting and production are as good as you will hear, and the use of subtle yet persuasive sound effects, a hallmark of Jack Webb shows, is very effective.
These sound effects can take us to a warm evening in New Orleans, with the chatter of the throngs of passers-by, or to the tired end of a hot night in Los Angeles, when Regan opens the window to admit a breeze, and he and Melody enjoy a cigarette to the accompaniment of car horns on the street far below.
More than half of this episode takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. With Jack Webb being a stickler for accuracy, it would be interesting to know just how convincingly the Los Angeles actors managed their New Orleans accents, particularly the hotel clerk, the taxi driver, and the various background characters. Here's hoping that a Louisianian can weigh in with an opinion on how much this episode actually sounds like 1940s New Orleans.
The episode stars Jack Webb as Jeff Regan, Wilms Herbert as Anthony J. Lyon, and Laurette Fillbrandt as Melody, the agency's receptionist, with guest stars Betty Lou Gerson as 'Red', the new headliner at the New Orleans nightclub, Lou Krugman as Timothy Connover, the other Los Angeles detective, Theodor Von Eltz as Daniel Carter, Eve McVeagh as Patrice Carter, and Harry Lang as morgue attendant Oliver Figg.
Incidentally, the $2,000 fee that Daniel Carter offers, in 1948 dollars, would be worth over $20,000 in 2016 dollars. As Anthony Lyon says, a "nice piece of change" indeed!
Consenting Adults (?):
At the close of this episode, when Anthony Lyon asks Patrice Carter how old she is, she replies in a rather sultry voice: "Old enough; Mr. Regan found out that much". One wonders what the audience of 1948 would have made of this line, its delivery, and what may have been implied.
With new post-war attitudes toward sex, would listeners have inferred that Jeff Regan and Miss Carter found an intimate way to pass the two-day train ride from New Orleans to Los Angeles?
By the 1948 debut of Jeff Regan, just three years after the end of World War II, America had grown up fast. Films of the era, such as the Raymond Chandler story 'The Lady In The Lake', began to reflect the country's more open attitude toward relations between consenting, if unmarried, adults.
In that film, detective Philip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) finds the monogrammed handkerchief of Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) in the bedroom of recently slain gigolo Chris Lavery, and asks her "Was he the type of guy who kept those kinds of souvenirs?" Miss Fromsett says "If I say no, that makes me a murderess, or a good suspect. If I say yes, what does that make me?" Marlowe simply replies "Human, maybe."
So when Patrice Carter (by this point, Regan calls her by the familiar 'Pat' rather than Patrice or Miss Carter) states that she is "Old enough; Mr. Regan found out that much", does it mean that he checked her ID and had a lawyer look over the documents, or could the implication be that Jeff Regan and Patrice Carter are 'Human, maybe'?
The title of this episode, The Prodigal Daughter, is taken from the biblical 'Parable of the Prodigal Son', found in Luke 15:11-32. From Wikipedia: "In the story, a father has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance and, after wasting his fortune, becomes destitute. He returns home with the intention of begging his father to be made one of his hired servants, expecting his relationship with his father is likely severed. The father welcomes him back and celebrates his return."
The implication of the story is that the father eagerly awaits the return of his wayward son, in spite of his errant ways. While Daniel Carter, the father in this episode, is anxious to reconnect with his daughter Patrice, there is no 'fatted calf' awaiting her return. His motives are not born of paternal love, but of greed and destitution. Bearing in mind that the word 'prodigal' means 'wastefully extravagant', perhaps a better title for this episode would be 'The Prodigal Father'.
We have included two mp3s of this show, digitized from two separate originals, at different bitrates. Because the record skips are in different locations, we can piece together any missing dialogue by cross-referencing the two versions of the episode:
Version A, 32kbps - 1:20:
"On the phone I was Jeffrey." "No!" / "I wish I knew, Melody."
~ is actually
"On the phone I was Jeffrey." "No!" "Yep." "Why do you stand for it?" "I wish I knew, Melody."
Version B, 24kbps - 4:40:
"Beat it! Call me if" / (Music)
~ is actually
"Beat it! Call me if you run into any trouble." (Music)
Version B, 24kbps - 8:00:
"She was young, lovely, and blonde, with a burning candle" / "very dead"
~ is actually
"She was young, lovely, and blonde, with a burning candle at her head and feet, lying in state, very dead"
The Extra Files:
Nearly eight years after The Prodigal Daughter, in June 1956, the story was retold on the popular series 'Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar', spread over five fifteen-minute daily episodes. Those episodes, renamed 'The Pearling Matter' and starring Bob Bailey, are included here.
While the story may not sound familiar at first, the latter half of the second episode begins to relate the tale of the missing daughter, and by the time the story reaches New Orleans, large sections of dialogue are almost word-for-word.
One curious point is that while the writing of Jeff Regan's 'The Prodigal Daughter' was credited to E. Jack Neuman, the same story on YTJD makes no mention of Neuman, with the writing being credited to John Dawson. In fact, 'John Dawson' was the alias of E. Jack Neuman, the pen name he used when rewriting his earlier scripts for other shows.
* A tip of the hat to OTR researcher extraordinaire Stewart Wright for pointing out the connection between these two shows, and for the Neuman/Dawson connection.
Prodigal Daughter: A twist on the title of the biblical 'Parable of the Prodigal Son', found in Luke 15:11-32.
Sunset Limited: "Here's your ticket; you leave on the Sunset Limited at 1:45 today." The Southern Pacific train between Los Angeles and New Orleans. At the time of this episode it was still pulled by a steam locomotive, switching to diesel in 1950. In 1926 it was a 72 hour run; by 1951 the streamlined diesels had reduced the trip to 42 hours. The 'Limited' in its name means that it stopped at a limited number of stations, as opposed to a 'local' train, which would make every stop. The current Sunset Limited is a 48 hour run, operated by Amtrak.
Greasepaint: "That greasepaint and make-up, using it heavy like that for a long time, it's hard to get off, huh?" An oil or emollient based theatrical make-up, similar in consistency to lipstick or lip balm. This heavy make-up is an effective concealer, even under the brightest stage lighting.
Dun & Bradstreet: "I made a phone call, too; Dun & Bradstreet know a lot of things." A business services company best known for credit history monitoring, formed in 1933 via the merger of two older companies whose history can be traced back to 1841.
To listen to more Jeff Regan episodes starring Jack Webb, click here.
To hear the final Jack Webb episode of Jeff Regan, 'The Man Who Lived By The Sea', click here.
To hear actor Frank Graham taking on the role of Jeff Regan, after Jack Webb had departed to create the role of Sgt. Joe Friday of 'Dragnet', click here.
For two more episodes with Frank Graham as Jeff Regan, not found in the main collection linked above, click here.
To visit Introduction To Old Time Radio's Jeff Regan, Investigator page, click here.
Scanner Internet Archive HTML5 Uploader 1.6.3
MP3 Uplevel BACK
OGG VORBIS Uplevel BACK
Uploaded by Harry Wilson on